I know two things about Alex Jones and InfoWars; one, I know he exists and, two, I’ve never listened to his broadcasts or visited his web site. From what little I know of him it’s hard to imagine I’d be much interested in what he has to say. But, he should have the right to say it and he should be allowed a fair platform from which to say it. After all FARC terrorists from Columbia still have a Facebook page, as does Fatah; glorifying female terrorists and suicide bombers. Anwar Al Awlaki’s materials can still be found on Facebook. The social media, Silicon Valley mob is alright with that.
Alex Jones’s right to speech is not being hampered by the government, the government is not shutting him down, big tech is and regardless of what they have to say about their standards (flexible), or their terms of service (unreadable), this is political and therefor dangerous to us all considering the demonstration of power aimed at Jones.
It’s stunning really, how eight different platforms attempted to deliver a kill shot to Jones nearly simultaneously, including e-mail services. Not good enough! Media Matters is now after Periscope to ban info wars. “Resistance is futile, you must obey!” Twitter is holding out, but for how long?
If you happen to be a fan of serious Science Fiction you know that today’s technology, especially social media, and the uses of social media were all predicted with an accuracy that is, in hindsight, stunning. Orson Scott Card and his Ender series as well as Frank Herbert’s Dune series comes to mind. The potential for mass manipulation, censorship and the potential for both good and evil were all predicted in Science Fiction as was the difficulty in determining what had credibility and what did not; and here we are looking at a dead Canary.
A sitting U.S. Senator, Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, thinks all of this is just great, but we should do more to shut down speech. Well, not shut down all speech, just conservative speech or speech the Senator disagrees with. The government can’t legally do it but apparently Silicon Valley can and they have, as Senator Murphy cheers them saying, “the survival of our democracy depends on banning conservative websites from social media.” Why this over the top reaction? It’s very simple, when you can’t win the argument on the merits shut down the opposition or, better still, get Silicon Valley to do it for you.
Repeat after me: Silicon Valley can shut you down and potentially destroy your business. No one of sound mind will argue that Silicon Valley is a bastion of moderation or conservatism. Not so long ago at a Facebook Watch event reporters were screaming about not only info wars, but why Facebook was allowing Fox News on their platform. Can’t win the argument, shut it down! Senator Murphy will cheer you on.
The infrastructure you depend on: electricity, water, gas, sewer are all regulated as public utilities. I contend that social media companies have positioned themselves in such a manner that they too can be defined as a public utility and thereby regulated. I’m no fan of regulation but if regulation is necessary to secure fair treatment by social media outlets then so be it.
The problem here is not only on the Left. According to the Daily Beast 43% of Republicans want to give Trump the power to shut down media outlets. Distrust media outlets all you want but Republicans and Conservatives should reject the idea represented in this poll as reprehensible and anathema to what Conservative principles are.
The answer to speech you don’t like is not less speech, it’s more speech.